June 3, 2014 – Nowy Sacz, Poland
I think this town is pronounced NoWe SawnJay. A couple different folks did their best to help me and that’s what I came away with. Debb and I commented this evening that this feels about as “far away” as we have been; we don’t speak the language, only a tiny few folks we’ve encountered speak any English, the signs are incomprehensible, and I don’t know the currency or the exchange rate. Bring it on!
We left in the rain and cold this morning. It felt like we were in the clouds the overcast was so low. We did chat with our Finland riders this morning. A guy and his wife heading home after two weeks in BiH.
Traffic was very heavy this morning. We worked our way up to Zilina where we got on E50 south. Wall to wall trucks along the river. No point in passing any of them, there was an endless line ahead. E50 turns east and the road opens up, but there was a short detour around construction and just on the other side of the detour was a car-truck accident in the other lane. It was so close to the detour it was difficult for those trying to help to manage the traffic. The westbound backup was legendary. Miles and miles.
We soon got on the ‘new and improved’ E50 and zipped along smartly. Out in the country there are no speed limits in Slovakia. Every now and then someone would go by at Warp Factor 7. Watch those mirrors!
Lunch happened in a town called Spisska Sobota, near Poprad, where we got off E50 and onto 67 to head north. We picked it completely by chance, “looks busier that way”, and by chance, the first restaurant we went to was full with a big gathering. We went to the next one and had one of those great experiences that make traveling so much fun.
We ate at a place called Penzion Svaty Juraj, which is Pension Saint George and the church up the plaza is Saint George and the whole area is known for Saint George and his dragon slaying exploits.
I parked in front just as a couple in a car parked next to me. I quickly pulled off my helmet and asked if they spoke English. The young woman responded that she did and I told her I was looking for lunch. She said she knew the folks inside and would see if they were serving. She came right back out and said yes, they were.
So Debb and I went in. It is quite an elaborate building and it took us a couple of tries to find the door to the restaurant. We sat and ordered. As we were sitting there we were looking at the elaborately folded napkins at each place. I went out to get my camera and a guy is standing there looking at the bikes. He asks about the Washington plates and we chat for a minute. He speaks quite good English. He asks if he could introduce his friend from America who is in town. I said sure, bring him to our table and join us.
So a few minutes later here he comes with his friend. Steve is a professor of Eastern European history at Central Michigan. Steve, who is 70+, comes to this town several times a year and he told us he has invested in helping renovate and restore this Pension. While we were talking, several people came by and said, “Hi Steve!”, including the woman from the car who helped me.
Steve took me all around the building showing me its features. In our dining room is an original stone column from the 1400s. It has a dragon carved in it. There is an identical one right above it on the next floor. They have also excavated several basement levels. They were used to store ice way back when. We both wondered if either the stone mason or the ice hauler had any thoughts that their work would be remembered 600 years later.
We traded email info and I got an email but not one from Steve. I hope I do. He did seem quite vague on some personal questions Debb asked and as we were riding away I thought to myself, “What could the CIA possibly care about such a place as Spisska Sobota in the far reaches of Slovakia.” Another unforgettable lunch.
I cannot think of any place we have been that is similar to this country. Pine trees are now dominant with open fields and villages dotting the hillsides. It has a little of the area around Moscow, Idaho and the foothills of the mountains, but this is a very green place with no sign of dry fields. Not a sprinkler in sight for days, it is all dry land farming.
One thing we did notice is that most houses are set on lots with yards all around. People here are nuts for flowers, especially roses. There are apartment blocks in the cities but out in the country it is all single homes with yards and grass. There are lots of tractors out mowing the medians and crews of guys with wire trimmers doing the detail work. This is pretty country.
I’m not sure what it is about Nowy Sacz that brings Edelwiess tours here, but we have a room the size of a three-car garage for $35. There is a bakery and a grocery store just minutes away, so today was great fun and inexpensive. Bring it on!
June 4, 2014 – Krakow, Poland
It has been an interesting couple of days. We are staying two blocks and a big intersection from the central square. Our bikes are parked on the sidewalk right in front, and our building, which includes a bank, has 24 hour security. The guards nod and smile when we go in and out. The weather is perfect.
The less interesting part of the last two days is the disk drive failures in my laptop. I think I am back to 100%, but the time I would have spent editing and posting photos I had to spend re-installing my photo editing software, and doing backups. It will be nuke and pave for this disk when I return.
Yesterday we walked all around the square, looked at all the vendors in the big market building, fed the pigeons a pretzel, and ate a so-so dinner. We sat on the square and enjoyed two beers. Big difference between here and Venice; two beers here was about $7. Zyweic is a local Polish beer and recommended.
Several large stages are being erected in the square. Lots of riggers and techs are getting it all put together. This afternoon a couple of musicians were tuning up their guitars and giving the crowd 3 minute concerts. Great fun.
Debb and I rode across town today to the Polish Aviation Museum. We would have taken the trolley if we could have, but Google said there wasn’t a route. We saw why on our way. Several miles of track down the middle of the street had been torn out and was being replaced. In some places they have conventional concrete ties the rails sit on, and in other stretches there are precast concrete supports with slots in them for the rails. There were lots of guys with transits and height markers keeping everything on the level. It was a mess and we had to cross from one side to the other a couple of times. I’m sure everyone on that street will be glad when it’s finished.
The museum was fun. It is a fairly modest operation with only a little restoration work. Most of the planes are just parked on the grass along sidewalks. The rest are in three hangers and the main building. The Polish Air Force disappeared during WW II and after the war it was all Soviet hardware. The few Polish planes they have were taken to neutral countries early in the war and they have been able to acquire. Boeing has provided some support and we saw their name and logo in a couple of spots. A career officer in the US Air Force of Polish heritage even donated his Buick Riviera. The pride of place is occupied by the helicopter that Pope John Paul II used in while in office. Polish and the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years.
Dinner tonight was meat and cheese and bread and drink and dessert from a local grocery store. Delightfully inexpensive!
We are back on the road tomorrow.
June 5, 2014 – Polish Aviation Museum
June 6, 2014 – Skidzin, Poland
Short post tonight. I have managed to catch a cold and I’m not feeling my best.
Skidzin is place you will probably have to look for. We are staying in an Agrotourist place 4 miles south of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum.
Debb and I took the tour of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum today. Not much I can say about this place that hasn’t been expressed so well so many times. It doesn’t seem like a place to take pictures, so I didn’t. The size of Birkenau is not something we will soon forget.
The weather the last few days has been glorious. Both of us have red faces and necks from being out in it so much. Fingers crossed for more.
We will be working our way northwest along the Poland and Czech border for the next few days. Stay tuned.
Continue to Czech Republic & Austria
Return to Central Europe 2014